Demand for U-turn over SNC relocation

Artist's impression of the Moat Lane regeneration project
Artist's impression of the Moat Lane regeneration project

SOUTH Northants Lib Dems were accused of posturing and triumphalism this week as they called for a U-turn on the controversial district council office move.

During Wednesday evening’s South Northants Council meeting Martin Johns (Lib Dem, Towcester), called for the Conservative lead administration to reverse a decision to move from the 28-year-old Springfields office block on the outskirts of the town, to new town centre offices built as part of the Moat Lane regeneration project.

Mr Johns said the recent Lib Dem victory during district and county by-elections was both a protest vote against the move and the SNC decision to cease funding for public toilets and that both were “deeply unpopular”.

He added: “They really can’t brush off the by-election result by saying it was a personality contest. It wasn’t. Towcester people took the opportunity to say they don’t want to be taken for granted.”

Mr Johns quoted a Conservative blogger who approved of U-turns if they brought politicians back in line with public opinion.

David Harries (Ind, Heyford and Bugbrooke), attacked the Lib Dems and said it was entirely inappropriate to raise the issue as negotiations with developers continued. He added: “The whole thing just reinforces my view as to why I do not get involved with political parties – this is just posturing and triumphalism and I don’t like it.”

Blake Stimpson (Ind, Brackley) said as a member of Brackley Town Council, they had prevented closure of public toilets by part funding them to the tune of £4,000. He asked whether Towcester Town Council, for which Mr Johns serves as Mayor, had consider doing the same.

Chris Lofts (Lib Dem, Towcester) seconded Mr Johns’ motion. He said the regeneration project had initially received wide spread support but the office move decision had come out of the blue.

At a public meeting called as a result of the announcement in 2009 Mr Lofts said the SNC Tory leadership had been lambasted by some of the 300 people who attended.

He said further public meetings confirmed general opposition to the move and added: “I think the people of Towcester have to be told why they are constantly being ignored.”

Council leader Mary Clarke (Cons, Old Stratford) said the Moat Lane regeneration remained a core priority and is integral to the growth of the town.

She said is it easy to highlight an unpopular policy, but added: “It would certainly show disloyalty to the people of Towcester if the result is a ghost town unable to support its impending growth.”